Saturday, 27 May 2017

Review :: The Shadow Queen :: Anne O'Brien

I really enjoy historical fiction. It is such an easy way to learn some history, and with all their scandal and battles for power historical fictions set in royal courts are especially fun. That's what led me to pick up Anne O'Brien's The Shadow Queen when I saw it was available for review, and I was really glad I did!

 

When I first started reading I felt a bit nervous - I haven't been enjoying 1st person POV, especially with a young protagonist, and the story opens with Joan of Kent at about 12 years of age. However, Joan's voice, while capturing the feeling of youth, really felt more like a much older Joan reflecting back on her life. It was easy to read, and I was very quickly caught up in the intrigue and scandal of King Edward the Third's fourteenth century court.

One of the things I enjoyed about sharing Joan's point of view was that she is written as such a strong woman - she isn't afraid to admit (first to us, her readers, and later to those around her) that she craves power, she is beautiful and not afraid to use that to get what she wants (and, to be fair, how many advantages did a woman really have in those times?).

For the most part I found the story really well paced, although for me it seemed to drag out a bit around Richard II's coronation.

I was really excited to see how many historical fiction novels Anne O'Brien has written around this time period, and am keen to read some more - probably starting with The King's Concubine  about Alice Perrers, who we meet in The Shadow Queen.

This would be a great read for anyone who already enjoys a royal historical fiction - I thought the feeling  was similar to books like Wolf Hall - or for someone who is interested in getting into those sorts of books, since the writing felt really accessible (I feel like I've seen this classified as YA).

I gave it 4/5 stars (more please!)

 

The Shadow Queen by Anne O'Brien is out this week from Harlequin Books. I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review, but only chose to read it because it sounded like something I would enjoy (life's too short to read books we don't think we'll enjoy) and I wouldn't tell you it was good if I didn't think so. =)

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Currently Reading

Tomorrow I'm off on a bookish adventure - to the All Day YA event, being held as part of the Sydney Writers' Festival.
 
These are just some of the books on my TBR by authors I'll be seeing tomorrow - I am really super excited! 
So this week I've been reading from this pile - I went with Lynette Noni's Medoran Chronicles to start with, and read the first book in just a few days - sooo good!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Review :: Quinsey Wolfe's Glass Vault :: Candace Robinson

Some see it… Some don’t…
People in the town of Deer Park, Texas are vanishing. There is a strange museum, known as Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, that appears overnight. Perrie Madeline’s best friend and ex-boyfriend are among the missing. Perrie, along with her friend August, go on a pursuit to search for them in the mysterious museum. Could the elusive Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault have anything to do with their disappearances?
 

My feelings about this book are a bit complicated. Overall, this wasn't quite the right book for me right now. Call me a crabby old lady, but I've read a few books lately with a young narrator and first person POV they have just got on my nerves a bit. BUT there were some things I loved about this book, and one of the things I didn't like was that it finished too soon - the pacing wrapped up the end too quickly for me and I wanted to know more about these characters! 

I think wanting more is the mark of a Good Book, so I thought I'd share my top three favourite things about it:
  • There was some super creepy writing. This was a proper horror twist on fairytales, and there were bits that were gross and kind of scary. In particular I loved the prologue and epilogue (which both happened to be written in 3rd person POV) - they were some of the creepiest passages I've read in a long time.
  • The plot felt really original to me - I don't want to say too much because spoilers, but it was different to anything I'd read before. I thought the way the fairytales were linked, and there movement from one to the next, was really cool.
  • The characters were quirky and individual. I really wanted to get to know them more, and when I finished the book I wasn't ready to let them go - I'm pleased to see on Good Reads that this looks like it will be the first in a series. I wanted to know more about the villain in particular, and what happens to everyone next. 
I know I said top three, but I can't not mention how much I love the cover of this book!

I gave it 2.5 stars (not quite my cup of tea, but you might love it).

Quinsey Wolfe's Glass Vault by Candace Robinson is out now. I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Review:: Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles :: J.M. Sullivan

Do you ever read something and that starts you off on a hunt for as many books with a similar theme as you can find? This happens to me pretty often - I pick something up and all of a sudden need to read alllll the books about witches, or cults, or coming of age, or space operas, or classics, or whatever. I can't remember what it was that started me off on this one, but at some stage late last year I decided I wanted 2017 to be the year of the fairytale/myth/classic retelling. So when Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles - a YA Alice retelling with a zombie twist - popped up on Net Galley, requesting a review copy was a total no-brainer (see what I did there? Zombies? Brains? Ha!)


 


I am always here for an Alice retelling. And yes, there are a bunch of them. But I felt like this one stood out from some others that I have read because the story would have been just as good without the Alice link, rather than depending on it. This meant that the plot moved smoothly, where sometimes a retelling can have bits that feel like they have been forced to fit the original story. The characters were interesting in their own right, and the Alice-y bits add fun to an already compelling plot - I loved seeing how the characters we know from traditional Wonderland would pop up.


I also liked that it didn't feel like the momerath (Wanderland's zombies) were just there for the sake of having zombies. I haven't read a lot of zombie-ish books before, so didn't really know quite what to expect, but I felt the world building was good enough that the momerath really fit into the story. There was plenty of blood and brain matter, but without it being enough to feel gratuitous.


One of my favourite parts of the book was a bonus chapter at the end, which re-tells an earlier chapter from another character's perspective. I loved seeing what J.M. Sullivan could do from behind a different set of eyes, and for me it was perhaps some of the best writing in the book. It also made me really excited to see what J.M. Sullivan has in store for these characters - and is, as readers - next.


Obviously I really enjoyed this. I had originally given it 3.5 stars(out of 5), but that alternative chapter bumped me up to 4 (more please!)


Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles by J.M. Sullivan is out now from Pen Name Publishing. I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Monday catch up

Lots of stuff happening today, so I thought I'd do a catch up post covering a bunch of bits and pieces...

Made it Monday!
Along with books and reading, craft is my absolute favourite. So when I came across Made It Monday on Amy Laurens' blog I was excited to join in. These little blossoms I've been working on for a couple of months now, slowly in front of the tv. They are handstiched and once I have a whole lot more they will be sewn together into a quilt. The pieces for them are coming as a subscription from Tales of Cloth - you can find out more on their blog if you are interested.

 

Book Launch
So the reason I was hanging out on Amy's blog was because she has a new book coming out soon, and I'm going along to the launch with one of my bookish friends. Amy's book, Where Shadows Rise  is out in 24 May and sounds really cool! The launch is on 1 June at Harry Hartog in Woden - Canberra people might be interested in checking it out!

 

Sydney Writers' Festival
Another upcoming book event that I'm super excited about is the Sydney Writers' Festival  My friend and I are catching the bus from Canberra to Sydney very early in the morning and spending the day in Parramatta at the All Day YA event. It sounds like it is going to be amazing!

Bout of Books update 
I'm not quite sure where last week got to, but I can tell you I wasn't exactly the best Bout of Books participant! I would have liked to engage with the challenges and with the community a bit more, but I did manage to read two of the three books I was hoping to get to: Jelly Bean Summer (which I've reviewed here) and The Atomic Weight of Love (which I haven't reviewed yet, but I loved) 

Currently Reading
So, what am I reading right now? I've got two books on the go - a paperback (Goodwood by Holly Throsby - due back at the library this week!), and one on my kindle (Quinsey Wolfe's Glass Vault by Candace Robinson - which is out this week, and is really creepy fun so far).

And that's my bookish life right now!

Bron x

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Review :: Jelly Bean Summer :: Joyce Magnin

Another middle grade war book today - this time we are in the US in 1968. It's summer and Joyce has moved into a tent on the roof  because everything in her house is too weird (her sister sees UFOs and her brother is MIA in Vietnam).

 

Magnin has done a wonderful job of writing from a child's point of view. I found the voice of the narrator really authentic - Joyce feels naive, and young, and hopeful all at once. It also manages to capture that frustration of feeling like the 'grown-ups' aren't telling you everything, and the tension of wanting to know, but also wanting to stay carefree. I think my favourite thing about this book was how personal Joyce's narration was - it often feels like she is writing a journal, or confessing to a friend.

I like the way the book gives a young reader some exposure to war and its consequences - there is some discussion about death, and the fact that soldiers might be expected to kill, and a character whose brother had been killed - but without being too confronting, or, I guess, scary. I don't have a lot of experience with middle grade readers (apart from having been one myself quite some time ago!), but this felt like a good way to introduce and start to explore some of these issues.

As well as the exploration of these themes giving the reader a lot to think about, the story itself was a lot of fun. I love a kid scheme/project - those crazy plans that an adult would never even think of, but kids are convinced just couldn't go wrong.

Overall it's a fun summer read (with a gorgeous cover!) - I gave it three stars.
 
Jelly Bean Summer by Joyce Magnin is out now from Sourcebooks. I received an e-book of Jelly Bean Summer in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Review :: Number the Stars :: Lois Lowry

Until recently I'm sure I had read very little fiction set in or around World War II. One of the tasks in the Read Harder Challenge this year is to read a book about war, and all of a sudden they are popping up all over my TBR list!

This was a birthday present, which S picked up because I have been talking about reading All the Light We Cannot See and The Book Thief.

  
Number the Stars is a middle grade books that tells the story of a young girl and her best friend (whose family are Jewish) living in Copenhagen during the Nazi occupation of Denmark.

This was a really sweet and heartbreaking book. The story is told from the point of view of the 10 year old protagonist, and the child perspective is perfectly written.

I think this does a fantastic job of introducing World War II in an age-appropriate way (as problematic as identifying books as 'age-appropriate' - but hopefully you know what I mean!), and gives an opening to discuss issues like discrimination with a child. I also think it would be a good place to start with a child who you weren't sure was ready for Anne Frank.

I gave this 5 out of 5 stars - I'd love to know what you thought if you have read it!

Bron xo